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Killing of Philippine rights lawyer condemned

MANILA (UCAN): Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos, Negros Oriental, in the central Philippines, called for renewed talks between the government and communist rebels following the murder of 53-year-old human rights lawyer, Anthony Trinidad, in the city of Dumaguete on July 23. Trinidad’s wife was hurt in the shooting.
In a July 24 pastoral letter, the bishop called for an end to a series of murders and said that while there have been attempts to arrive at a peace deal, “both sides have to return to the negotiating table.”
An initial police investigation revealed that Trinidad was on the hit list of a group that calls itself the Movement Against Communists in Guihulngan. He had also been receiving death threats due to cases he was handling, some of which involved political prisoners in the region.
“This only proves that the perceived dangers of being arbitrarily, maliciously and baselessly red-tagged (branded a communist) are neither imaginary nor contrived, but constitute real threats to life, liberty and security,” Ephraim Cortez, secretary-general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), said.
Cortez said Trinidad’s killing was “a manifestation of the culture of impunity” that the administration of the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, has allegedly been perpetuating.
“End the killings is the collective cry among us here living on Negros Island,” read Bishop Alminaza’s pastoral letter.
Trinidad’s murder happened in the same week that four police officers were killed after being allegedly set up and ambushed by the communist New People’s Army.
“The fear and violence must end,” the bishop said, adding that people “are longing for an end to barbaric killings due to the drug war and the anti-insurgency campaign.”
He said only the resumption of peace talks between the government and the communists can ensure the end to the violence.
“We reiterate the call for integral peace, one that addresses social injustice and promotes economic equality and inclusive development for all,” Bishop Alminaza said.
The bishop ordered the tolling of church bells at 8.00pm each evening. “Let the tolling of bells remind us that these senseless killings are inhumane,” he said.

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